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The Writer in You: Memoir Writing for Seniors

College of Retirement Living at Hebrew SeniorLife

Jane Baker's picture
Michelle Seaton
Michelle Seaton

In our later decades, we reflect back on the journey of our lives and the experiences along the way that gave each of us our own unique humanity.    Many senior authors capture these amazing journeys, each one a historical record, a family story, and an autobiographical reflection of each individual’s life journey in their memoir writing.  It is for all of these reasons that senior memoirs are growing in popularity. 

There have been large-scale memoir projects in cities and states throughout Massachusetts using the short-form memoir model of 1,000 to 5,000 words in length.   According to Michelle Seaton, author and memoir writing coach for the Grub Street Writers Workshop in Boston, “Memoir writing is an important activity for any adult. It's the act of reconstructing part of your life in words, and inviting a reader to understand your perspective.  By writing their thoughts and memories, by telling engaging stories about the past, seniors can be heard and appreciated for what they've experienced and for what they've learned.”

Seaton says there are several reasons why the short form memoir is so popular now: “The first is that literary journal editors love to publish as many different voices as they can, and so appreciate short nonfiction.  Also, many online magazines are looking for shorter, essay-length, real stories about people's lives.  Writers like it because they get to tell a short , may be less than 1,000 words long, but very deep story about one aspect of their experience and it can still be very moving and powerful.”

Older adults have such great stories to tell and many already have a natural storytelling ability, which is one of the reasons Seaton loves the Memoir Project and teaching nonfiction to older adults.  “Participants are also great students; they want to learn more about writing and how to tell a story better.  Older adults are continually reinventing themselves. Our popular culture doesn't really celebrate the fact that adults find new careers, new partnerships, new callings in their 50s and 60s, but they do. And it's exciting to see,” she said.

Memoir writing is an important form of creative expression for older adults which is vital for seniors to stay engaged and involved in their lives.  Anyone can begin by keeping a journal and a pen handy and by jotting down thoughts and memories you have during the day.  If you’re interested in learning about memoir writing or finding local classes, there is a world of resources and help online. You can also attend our upcoming May 23 workshop on memoir writing for seniors as part of Hebrew SeniorLife’s College of Retirement Living to get started with the help of esteemed memoir writing coach, Michelle Seaton.

Hebrew SeniorLife’s Spring 2013 College of Retirement Living “A Celebration of Aging in Words & Images” includes “The Writer In You” a memoir writing and self-publishing workshop led by Michelle Seaton and Sharon Bially to be held on Thursday, May 23 at NewBridge on Charles, Dedham from 1:30-3:00 pm.  Visit www.hslindependentliving.com for more information and ticketing information.  

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Community Relations Specialist for Orchard Cove in Canton and NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham

Jane Baker is the Community Relations Specialist for Orchard Cove in Canton and NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham, the Continuing Care Retirement Communities of Hebrew SeniorLife.  Jane oversees marketing communications and community relations for both communities and brings more than 20 years of experience in branding, advertising, public relations and marketing communications with national and international clients.

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